Nikola Tesla was born on July 10th 1856, in the territory of modern day Croatia to his two Serbian parents.
Tesla grew up into bright inquisitive, yet eccentric child, who found himself fascinated by the world around him.
Tesla once tried to fly by jumping off the roof of a barn while holding on to an umbrella. He devised a bug powered motor using Junebugs, but had to abort his experiment after a friend decided to eat some of the bugs (Tesla thought this was gross). He once attempted to generate electricity by rubbing two cats together, which resulted in two very mad cats and a scratched up Tesla.
On June 6th, 1884, Tesla arrived in the United States. He was hired by Thomas Edison to do basic electrical engineering, but moved up to re-designing the direct current generators that ran Edison’s business.
Edison offered Tesla $50,000, or about $1.1 million in today’s currency to make these improvements. After completing this assignment, Tesla asked about the payment for his work. Edison didn’t pay out the money. He claimed that he wasn’t serious about the payment, that Tesla didn’t “understand American humor”.
Tesla eventually left Edison’s company and partnered with George Westinghouse in 1888 to commercialize his system of alternating current (AC). The problem here is that alternating current competed with direct current, which Thomas Edison built his entire monopoly on. Thus begun the “War of the Currents”.
Edison started a massive smear campaign against Tesla and alternating current, trying to scare people into avoiding it’s use. He spread false information about deaths from alternating current, lobbied against it, and went so far as to electrocute a circus elephant in public.
Direct current had plenty of faults, it was the cause of death of countless children, and created numerous house fires. Also, the maximum reach of direct current was about two miles, which meant a substation had to be built to continue the current. They would still be building substations today if they were going to get electricity across the US.
Tesla’s alternating current could go for hundreds of miles. Lights running on alternating current were brighter, unlike the dull yellow lights running on direct current.
Eventually, Edison had to give into the demands of the people, and go with alternating current.
Tesla’s influence goes much further than electricity. He had over 700 patents, and came up with ideas such as
- Spark Plugs
- the Electric Arc Lamp
- an Xray Device
- Blade less turbines
- Wireless communication
- Electric motors
- Laser technology
- Neon Lights
- Remote Controls
- Cellular communication
- The radio
- An electrical bath to remove germs
- Wireless communication
- And much more
Tesla died from heart failure in a room of the New Yorker Hotel, on January 7th 1943. Despite his fame and influence on the world, he died with significant debts, and all alone.
While Edison is known as the inventor of the century, Tesla is only acknowledged as a paragraph in today’s history books, forgotten, and unappreciated.